Thursday, October 18, 2018

Giving Glory to God - Recap of Mission India 2018

Meadows Fellowship, our home church in Las Vegas, gave us the opportunity to present our trip report at Wednesday's Connect this week.

We invite you to listen to the audio presentation by clicking this link:
Gary & Pat Richards India 2018 Report

Photos mentioned in our presentation are separated into three slide shows for easier viewing.

1. Maps - Travel - Roads - Church - Sarah
     If you have difficulty watching the slide show - click here for the You Tube Link

2. Funeral - Himalayas - Neighborhood - Food
      If you have difficulty watching the slide show - click here for the You Tube Link

3. Tea Garden - CDC - Nagrakata - Thank You
      If you have difficulty watching the slide show - click here for the You Tube Link.

Thank you for sharing our Journey - Gary and Pat

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Departures and Road Conditions

DISCLAIMER: Due to travelling, and sketchy internet, journal updates are not posted in real time.

Our second Sunday in India found us saying  farewell to Sarah and Cyndy.

Typical of the unpredictable vagaries of India, their scheduled flight from Bagdogra to Kolkata was moved forward,  which required them to head to the airport immediately after participating in the worship service.
Worship at The Master's Touch
Tears brimmed in many eyes as The Master's Touch Church prayed a blessing over their journey home. Hugs were given and received with hopeful promises of a return trip. 

Thankfully traffic was reasonable so Megha and I were able to drop them at the airport and be back at church to catch the end of Gary's message and prayer time.
Sharing the Word at The Master's Touch
As they made their way to Kolkata, we piled in the mini van for the 2 hour drive to Nagrakata, where I was privileged to share a message titled "Joy in the Journey".  I shared how focusing our hearts and lives on our relationship with Jesus equips us to minister to others from a pure, joyful stream. Our service for Jesus should flow from  love - rather than duty.

Plans for our first weekend of ministry and eye clinic outreach in the hill city of Kalimpong had been derailed by  heavy rains which caused mudslides in several areas.    The main road up to Kalimpong was blocked.  Even when it was partially cleared, with some detours, the normally 3 hour drive was taking a precarious 7+ hours. 

Sadly we cancelled plans for Kalimpong, regrouped and held an afternoon service in Nagrakata. The main route to Nagrakaya was also closed by a mudslide. The alternate route was bone-jarringly rough, and added about 30 minutes to the 2 hour drive.

By our second Sunday in India the main route to Nagrakata was mostly cleared  and passable with some careful maneuvering.  Check out the photos below for the residual mess and harrowing view down to the Teesta River.

Successful mission outreach requires extreme flexibility and a can-do attitude.  Remembering at all times that God has gone before us and He is not surprised. 

This truth applies to your life today. Wherever you find yourself, unexpected events in your life are opportunities to see God's powerful hand at work .

The Journey Continues ... Pat

Barely passable even after the mudslide was cleared

Railroad crossing

Worship at Nagrakata Church

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Home Again...Jiggety Jig

Well,  for now it's really just two of us home - and approaching coherent function after a couple days of sleep. Tuesday (9/24) late afternoon found us safely home - Sarah to Nevada, and Cyndy to Montana (and promptly whisked off to Sweet Peaks for homecoming ice cream - nothing beats back jet lag like a solid split scoop of Berry Cobbler and Apple a la Mode - really!).

As our time in India flew by, seasons shifted in the USA. (At least in Montana. Las Vegas just cooled off enough to allow for a morning walk as late as 7:30 AM.) Shades of impending autumn are everywhere: aerial views of snow dust the shady side of mountain tops, the Benson's field of corn stands tall and ready for harvest, golden leaves swirl in the wake of passing cars - and the  heated car seat was dandy during my Friday morning drive to work (which, by the way, is not at ALL like the driving in India!).

During my first day back to work, my thoughts often pinged back to India at varied contrasts (still forgetting I can safely drink water that comes from the tap) and unrealities of being back home (what day is it again?). Wondering where Sarah's thoughts were drifting on the heels of her first missions journey, I texted a few queries - sort of a mini post-trip interview:

Cyndy: So, Sarah...
Sarah: So, Cyndy...
C: Now that you're home, any reflective thoughts on last couple weeks in India? About people you met? Ministry participated in? Stretching?
S: Just how awesome it was, how much I got to experience. I've been thinking about how the entire trip was out of my comfort zone - going to places and eating foods that are completely different than what I am used to. And praying for people is not something I do on a regular basis at church so that’s different for me. The whole thing was stretching me and I loved every part of it even though it’s not exactly comfortable. The people really helped me feel comfortable
C: Sweet. So, feeling all that love-iness, how will your experiences on this trip affect or influence your future ministry/outreach interactions, including where you currently volunteer with children and your church's worship team?
S: I think time will really tell. I can’t really tell how the experiences will affect me but my best guess is more openness to what God has for me and what He wants me to do for the people around me.
C: Definitely a worthwhile reason for taking this trip! My key personal takeaway was along the same lines - to step up and step in to the next things Jesus has been nudging me toward.
S: I think we can call that a wrap -
C: And y’all come back now! The journey continues....and we'll leave you today with a few street views from our travels.

Siliguri: Morning walk to school

Siliguri: Out for a morning stroll
Siliguri: Hard work hauling bricks
Siliguri: Historic church, with
present day home in background

Kolkata taxi at the airport
Siliguri: Residential street
at Community Development Centre A

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Vignettes From a Rooftop

Early morning views from the rooftop where we enjoy our quiet time, provide an insight into daily life of the residents.

Many homes in Village Shantipur  (near Siliguri, West Bengal India) are modest 1 or 2 room concrete structures with tin roofs extending over a portion of the yard used as an outdoor room.  This serviceable space is used for  personal hygiene, cutting vegetables, dish washing, laundry and escaping the heat of the day. 

We discreetly observe and marvel at the myriad of life stories playing out before us:

  • Neighbors unlock the front gates to their yard and stop to greet each other. 
  • A wandering cow is lead into the yard for milking and feeding.
  • Three ladies dressed in well-worn, once-colorful saris chat as they walk to their place of service as house maids. (Another bicycles past with her chunni scarf streaming behind)
  • A father taking a early morning walk with his toddler balances his older son's bicycle.
  • A pair of men in sweat pants and white sneakers chat animatedly on their morning walk. 
  • A young boy skips alongside his mother, twirling the market bags. 
  • Bells and chanting from Hindu worshippers mingle with birdsong greeting the dawn. 
There is a coolness and peace at dawn that dissipates as the sun rises and the pace of daily life takes over. 

May your day start and end with the blessing of Heaven's peace.     The Journey Continues ~ Pat

Modest Family Home

View to the West

Looking Southeast 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

First-timer Interview: Sarah Jacobs (with Cyndy Hull)

(Note: Since this interview was conducted during a drive between key cities visited, it has been edited to spare you the incessant honking, goat bleating, and, er, witty passenger comments.)

Cyndy: So Sarah,...
Sarah: So, Cyndy... [insert eyebrow arching]
C: You've travelled internationally before, but this is your first missions trip, if my understanding is correct?
S: Correct.
C: And do you have any specific reasons why you wanted to travel with an outreach trip instead of just for the heck of it?
S: Ummm...not really. Since I do enjoy travelling,  I just wanted to see if it's something I'm called to do to help further God's Kingdom or if I'm just meant to travel "touristically". And I figured, why not dive right in with a country like India?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Tiger Hill Sunrise and Mount Kanchenjunga

If you are ever asked, “Would you want to get up at 1:00 AM to go view the sun rise up from behind the Himalayas?”, for pity’s sake, just say YES!  

We did get to sleep in - until 3:00 AM - to catch a 3:30 AM taxi from our hotel in Darjeeling for a 45ish minute drive up to the Tiger Hill lookout point. Official sunrise isn’t until 5ish AM, but we were glad the taxi was early, as a fair number of other folks kicking around in shoulder season thought this was a worthwhile outing. Tremendously clear skies prevailed the past couple days - which a local vendor informed us were the first in about a month - so we had clear views to the mountain peaks, as opposed to more commonly being obscured by clouds.

Mount Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest and K-2. Regional lore has it that this as where the yeti hangs out - except he’s actually thought to be a demon instead of the shy furry fellow portrayed in Western films. Knowing Who is the true God over all creation, we never gave the yeti a second thought, but just unreservedly took in the best  light show ever - starting with the brightest stars shining out from a deep blue velvet sky and morphing on through to full sunup  highlighting craggy snow-capped details of not only Kanchenjunga but also Everest and K-2. 
Words truly cannot express the overwhelming awe and thankfulness in the midst of this glorious unfolding of a new day’s beginning - a visible metaphor for hope and mercy, new every morning. But perhaps these pictures can replace a few thousand words (and you can click here for a random time-lapse video).

From Tiger Hill: Mt. Kanchenjunga on right, plus tiny Everest and K-2 to left

Morning crowd at Tiger Hill lookout
Looking from Darjeeling walking trail
View over rooftops along Darjeeling walking trail

Today we head back down to Siliguri to gear up for another full weekend, with Saturday Community Development Centre outreach bookended by Friday and Sunday meetings.
(Y’all come back now!)

Monday, September 17, 2018

View To The Himalayas - And Beyond

Despite clouds rolling back in to deliver more rain, our current rooftop view over the village of Shantipur within the city of Siliguri, West Bengal, India, boasts a pretty clear view to the Himalaya mountain range - at least since yesterday - hooray! 
(Side note: Gary informed me that we are 12 miles, as the crow flies, from Nepal.) 
Since it’s not advisable for we Western women to walk alone outside the walled family compound, I've been thankful to get in a 6 AM walk while temps are still below 80 degrees F (26 C), pacing the roof patio in a compact u-shaped circuit around the stairwell and praying for the people in this city who so need the hope and freedom only Jesus offers. 

While we’ve been blessed with far less rain than forecast, there was still enough downpour in the hill country to cause a major chunk of a main highway to slide down the mountain. Thus, we could not travel to Kalimpong on Sunday as scheduled. The plan was to leave 6 AM on Sunday morning to join in the local church service, and stay through Monday to hold an eye clinic. Since "missions work" is often synonymous with "subject to change", we instead participated in worship, teaching, and prayer with the Siliguri church family's Sunday morning service, then after lunch drove a bit over 2 hours east to Nagrakata (along a modified route as the main road also was damaged by rain) to join the church family there in a late afternoon service, driving home to arrive in time for a late snack just before bedtime. It was a full day, but now I know I'll never pass up the chance to join in worship with believers in India. I know Jesus doesn't play favourites, but the full participation in joyful and unfettered outpouring of thanks to God is sure to make His heart overflow with delight.   

Stopping at the tyre shop for air

Efficient family travel en route to Nagrakata
Nagrakata street view from above the church
Nagrakata church service
We did stay on schedule for Friday evening's Family Encouragement meeting and Saturday's participation at two Community Development Centres (CDC) sponsored by our host church. These provide a safe place for children and young adults to receive qualified, no-cost educational and life-skill lessons - school tutoring, sewing, music lessons, marketable crafts - and also the opportunity to attend Bible classes. Morning classes were in CDC rooms on an upper floor of an apartment block, and we then drove to a neighborhood closer to the tea gardens for afternoon meetings in the courtyard of the host family’s compound. Most of the parents of children at the afternoon CDC work long days in the tea gardens, and the children are left on their own much of the time and often do not attend school regularly. They receive weekly tutoring and instruction, as well as encouragement to pursue their schooling. But more importantly, they receive love and attention, and tangible reminders that Jesus sees them and loves them.
Community Development Centre (CDC) 1a
CDC 1a: Sarah teaches bracelet making
CDC 1a: Guitar instruction
CDC 1a: Sewing instruction

Tomorrow morning, we're off to Darjeeling. (Let there be tea, glorious tea!) Skies are forecast as clearing, so we'll follow up with scenic photos!
- Cyndy